Team AJW’s enthusiasm covers its blind spots

Our Process: The endorsement is the result of a vote by The Journal Editorial Board. The Editorial Board considers prior interviews, debates, platforms and a private questioning period with the teams before making a decision. 

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When students demand transparency and accountability from their government, sincerity and a vision go a long way.  

In a 17-0 vote with two abstentions, The Journal Editorial Board elected to endorse Team AJW for the 2019-20 AMS executive.

For the second consecutive year, there’s only one team running to be our AMS executive. 

While this lack of student engagement demands attention, AJW’s diverse external experience and passion for Queen’s have forged a team The Journal can support.

Comprised of Auston Pierce, Will Greene and Jessica Dahanayake, AJW acknowledged their uncontested run speaks to greater disengagement with student leadership across campus. What differentiates them is their commitment to change that. 

While AJW lacks preparation and experience, the team members exude competency and enthusiasm. Their big plans, though sometimes ungrounded, bring trust back to student politicians. 

Greene, ArtSci ’19 and AJW’s Vice-President (University Affairs) candidate, spoke about how previously volunteering on student campaigns “opened [his] eyes” to the importance of advocating for issues students care about. His team spoke fervently about trying to bring a culture of engagement back to the AMS. 

However, this is easier said than done. Experience goes a long way.

Greene and presidential candidate Pierce, ArtSci ‘19, have never worked in an official capacity for the Society, yet they often interrupted and spoke over more experienced Vice-President (Operations) candidate Jessica Dahanayake, Sci ’20, who’s the AMS IT director.  

When discussing how they planned to ensure safe space on campus for marginalized students, Pierce and Greene used the team’s full two-minute response time without giving the floor to Dahanayake. Though well-intentioned, every member of a hopeful AMS executive should have the ability to bring forward responses to student voices. 

AJW’s collective lack of preparation also led to few substantive policy proposals. 

When asked how she’d ensure that student services remain fully operational during the JDUC’s revitalization, Dahanayake “couldn’t say confidently” whether certain jobs would be cut before the building’s proposed reopening in 2022. 

On how they would continue efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence on campus, Dahanayake said the team “had no time” to address it in consultations or planning. Pierce interjected: “We failed.” While stating that’s one of their greatest regrets during the campaign process, the pervasive issue isn’t mentioned in the team’s platform. 

A lack of attention to detail extends to a lack of knowledge of facts. 

AJW proposes to couple sustainability and wellness initiatives in one commission, pointing to the 2017 dissolution of the Commission of Environmental Affairs (CEA) as the reason for pairing two supposedly smaller goals under one committee. However, this analysis of the CEA’s closure fails to note a number of other factors influencing the commission’s dismantling. 

AJW admitted they’ve bitten off more than they can chew in their campaign, and this was, at times, apparent. It’s not promising when the presidential candidate refers to the “toxicity” and corrupt perception of the Society which he hopes to lead. 

The team justified their lack of answers to the Board’s questions with the fact that they only decided to run in December. This is no excuse—AMS elections take place during the same period every year. You make time for what you care about.

However, Team AJW repeatedly stated they wanted to continue to consult the student body and learn from them. The team knows Queen’s student government needs to change—the good thing is they’re honest about it and willing to bring about that change. 

The team might not fully understand the scope of the responsibility they seek, but they recognize they’re in for a steep learning curve. 

While The Journal acknowledges flaws in AJW’s campaign, the team has integrity and pursues transparency. We hope our criticisms will be taken in good faith and the team allows that to guide them in leaving Queen’s better than it was before them. 

Pierce, Greene and Dahanayake could’ve had a more concrete platform, but they have an earnest willingness to become the best leaders they can be. 

Above all else, we hope Team AJW follows through on their promise to bring engagement back to student government. 

If elected, their uncontested run can’t allow them to rest on their laurels. They should challenge students to raise the bar and implement the changes they wish to see in campus politics. 

AJW’s slogan is “Listeners before leaders.” However, listening is a part of leadership. It doesn’t have to be a choice between the two. 

As the only team running for AMS executive office, The Journal Editorial Board trusts, through our endorsement, AJW can make that distinction.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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